The Reality Of Interreligious Relations In Jerusalem And Its Future In Relevance With Political Reality.
Jerusalem is considered hallowed by three different religions.
The Old City of Jerusalem has within its walls holy places central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These include the Western Wall; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; and the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The proximity of these sites reflects the close historical and doctrinal relationship between the three monotheistic religions.
Jerusalem is divided into three sections, the Old City, New City (West Jerusalem) and East Jerusalem. The Old City was under Jordanian control from 1949 to 1967. The walled old city in the center contains Muslim, Jewish, Christian and American quarters.
Inhabited by people from three religions for thousands of years, Jerusalem manages to be the masterpiece of designing religious\ mythological stories that are genuinely believed by each side.
The Moslems continue to see Jerusalem as a rich heritage of over a thousand years of Islamic rule and power.
Christians illustrate Jerusalem as the resurrection place that conveys in the heart of Christianity.
And Jews, regardless of how far the biblical stories have been deprived of their credibility as history, they powerfully operate within the old notions.
Even when it appears that biblical history is being debunked, what scholars often do is to generate theories that result, yet again in appropriating or recycling old claim systems, and attempting to acquire more cultural legitimacy.
The First Temple
In the 10th century BC, after King David captured the city of Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Israelites, he chose this high place as the site of a great temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 24:18-25). The construction project was undertaken by David’s son, King Solomon, and completed in 957 BC.
The Temple’s two primary purposes were to house the Ark of the Covenant and provide a place for people to worship, so the Temple was a relatively small building with a large courtyard.
The Temple of Jerusalem was an important center of religious and national identity from the beginning, but it became even more important when Josiah (r.640–609 BC) abolished all other sanctuaries and established Solomon’s Temple as the only acceptable place for sacrifice in the Kingdom of Judah.
The First Temple was looted of its treasures – including the Ark of the Covenant – between 604 BC and 597 BC and utterly destroyed in 587-86 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. The Jews were deported to Babylonia between 586 and 582 in what is known as the Babylonian Exile.
The Second Temple
In 538 BC, the Persian king Cyrus II (who had conquered Babylonia) allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This was completed around 515 BC as a modest version of the original, without the Ark or any other ritual objects. But the Temple resumed its role as the religious center of Judaism, with elaborate rituals conducted by priests and Levites.
The next few centuries saw Jerusalem subjugated to some foreign rulers. The Temple was respected by these (Persian and Hellenistic) kings until Antiochus IV Epiphanies, who plundered it in 169 BC and desecrated it in 167 BC, by commanding that sacrifices be made to Zeus inside. This sparked the Hasmonean revolt, after which Judas Maccabaeus rededicated the Temple. This event is still celebrated in the annual festival of Hanukkah.
During the Roman era, Pompey entered the Holy of Holies in 63 BC but left the Temple intact. In 54 BC, Crassus looted the Temple treasury. The Temple’s fortunes rose again, however, with King Herod the Great of Judea, who began to rebuild it in 20 BC. The project was completed in 26 AD, after the birth of Jesus.
Herod doubled the size of Temple Mount, surrounding it with retaining walls and gates. The Temple itself was enlarged and faced with large white stones. A series of “courts” allowed access to successively smaller groups of people: Jews and Gentiles; Jews only; Jewish men only; and priests only. Although it still lacked the Ark, the Temple now housed the Scriptures and other Jewish writings. It also became the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of law during the Roman period.
Jesus and the Temple
According to the New Testament, the Temple of Jerusalem played a significant role in the life of Jesus. After his birth (around 4 BC), Jesus was dedicated at the Temple by the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-28). When he was a boy, he impressed the Jewish teachers with his knowledge (Luke 2:41-52). Jesus was later tempted by Satan to jump off the Temple to prove his status (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13) and he angrily overturned tables of moneychangers during the “Cleansing of the Temple” (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:14).
Destruction of the Temple
In 66 AD, a Jewish rebellion against Rome began and culminated in the near-complete destruction of the Temple (and the entire city) by Titus on August 10, 70 AD.
This hope seemed to be realized after Simon Bar Kochba led a major rebellion against the Romans (132 AD). Jerusalem was liberated for three years, during which reconstruction on the Temple probably began. But in 135, Roman armies retook Jerusalem and forbade Jews to enter the city. Emperor Hadrian continued his construction of the new Roman city (called Aelia Capitolina) and built a Temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the Temple.
Two centuries later, in 324, Emperor Constantine destroyed Hadrian’s pagan temple and built a church in its place. Excavations at Al-Aqsa Mosque have uncovered an elaborate mosaic floor and fragments of an elaborate marble chancel screen, indicating that the Byzantine Church was a complicated and valuable one.
Jewish hopes for rebuilding raised again briefly in 363, from an entirely unexpected source – the Roman emperor Julian “the Apostate.” Julian rejected the Christianity in which he had been raised, embraced a form of Roman paganism, and enthusiastically promoted the idea of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. Julian himself funded the project, as well as donations from Jews around the world and construction, began almost immediately. Tragically, however, as the site was cleared by workers, “fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorching, could approach no more: and he [the architect] gave up the attempt” (Ammianus Marcellinus). Emperor Julian died within the year, and the project was abandoned.
Early Christian authors record that some stones of the Temple were still visible, although only foundations remained. During the Byzantine period, Jews were permitted to visit the Temple at least once a year, on the anniversary of the destruction in 70 AD. They would pour oil over a stone, weep and tear their garments.
Jerusalem was a very holy city for Byzantine Christians, but most of the focus was on sites associated with the death and resurrection of Christ, as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Temple Mount was mostly ignored, and its stone continued to be looted for use in other structures.
In 614, Persian forces invaded Jerusalem, slaughtering the inhabitants and destroying the churches. Thus, Islamic historians record that when the Muslims captured the city in 638, Caliph Umar I found the Temple Mount destroyed and began immediately to repair it. In 688-91 the fifth Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān built the Dome of the Rock on the restored platform.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (specifically the Al-Aqsa Mosque) is regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site outside the cities of Mecca and Medina. The main reasons are these:
• Islam sees Abraham, David, and Solomon as prophets and reverses the Temple as one of the earliest and unique places of worship of God. (However, some Muslims dispute that the Temple Mount is the site of the Jewish Temple.)
• Verse 17:1 of the Qur’an speaks of the Prophet’s night journey to the “farthest Mosque” (al-masjid al-Aqsa). The location is not given in the Qur’an, but Muslim tradition associates the site with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
• The Prophet Muhammad initially established Jerusalem as the qiblah (direction of prayer) before changing it to Mecca.
When the Crusaders briefly controlled Jerusalem (1099-1187, 1229-39 and 1240-44), Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount was the headquarters of the Templars. Their legacy can be seen in the three Romanesque central bays of the mosque’s main facade.
The 20th and 21st centuries have been full of turmoil for Jerusalem, with the city (and parts of the city) claimed by various groups at different times. The most significant event occurred in 1967 when Israelis captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the Six-Day War. Israel now claims all of Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, while Arabs and international opinion reject the allegation about East Jerusalem.
These violent events have not much changed the state of affairs at the Temple Mount, however, which continues to be administered by the Waqf, or Supreme Muslim Religious Council. Access to the Temple Mount is free and open to the public and is a favorite stop for tourists and pilgrims. In general, Jews still do not enter the Temple Mount, instead focusing their prayers and lamentations on the high western wall.
The significance of Jerusalem from a Jewish Perspective
Jews have lived on this land since c.1900 BCE. The story of the Jewish people, Israel, its capital, Jerusalem, and the Jewish Temple there, has been one of exile, destruction, and rebirth. In its 3000-4,000 years of history, Jerusalem has been destroyed many times and-and there has always remained a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, and the Jewish people as a whole always dreamed of returning.
The detailed history of ancient Israel is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, which begins when Abraham is told to travel to the Promised Land.
Jerusalem began to fulfill the function of a spiritual and national capital for the Jews in the 10th century BCE when King David made it his seat of judgment and brought the Ark of the Covenant to rest there. It was David who conceived the idea of building a Temple as a permanent house of God, a plan eventually fulfilled by his son Solomon.
When the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 BCE, they also partially destroyed the Temple. The Jews, sent into exile by this event, pledged that they would never forget their beloved Jerusalem or its Temple.
In the fifth century BCE, the Second Temple was built. In 169 BCE the Syrians in the cause of Hellenism desecrated it, and in 165 BCE the Maccabees rededicated it after they defeated the Macedonian-Greek rulers of Syria in a guerilla war. After 4 BCE, with the massive building by Herod “the Great,” the Temple again became one of the great wonders of the ancient world. The Romans destroyed this Second Temple in 70 CE, and for them, it was a victory of such significance that they commemorated it by erecting the triumphal Arch of Titus, which still dominates the Roman Forum, with a frieze showing a triumphal Roman legion carrying the Temple treasure.
When Emperor Hadrian began planning to replace the destroyed Second Temple with a shrine to Jupiter, a Jewish revolt known as the Bar Kochba Rebellion broke out. In the subsequent revolt in 135 CE, according to the Roman historian Cassius Dio, some 580,000 Jewish soldiers were killed. Following that uprising, Hadrian decreed that ‘Syria Palestina’ – Philistine Syria, or ‘Palestine,’ should replace the name ‘Judea.’ Jerusalem was razed to the ground and symbolically plowed, the Roman shrine was built, and the name of the city was changed to Aelia Capitolina.
In the years following the destruction of Jerusalem, the greater part of the Jewish population was sent into exile as captives, slaves, and refugees, although Galilee remained a center of Jewish learning and institutions until the sixth century CE.
Jerusalem’s famous Western Wall, the ancient retaining wall of the Temple Mount, continues today in the center of the Old City of Jerusalem, as a place of prayer and remembrance. Meanwhile the Islamic Dome of the Rock, constructed by the Caliph Omar in the 7th century CE, currently occupies the site of the Temple itself, on the surface of the Mount above the Wall. The Rock on Mount Moriah – the Temple Mount – is the rock from which Mohammed ascended to heaven on horseback, which is the same stone, which was the scene of the “binding of Isaac” in Genesis.
It is in the direction of Jerusalem that Jews face when they pray three times daily. Jewish prayers themselves contain numerous references to Jerusalem and Zion. For twenty centuries Jewish prayers have centered on the hope that God will restore the Jewish people to His holy city.
The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 envisaged an Arab and a Jewish state in the economic union, together with an internationalized Jerusalem. Palestine’s Jews accepted the Partition Resolution and established the state of Israel. Palestine’s Arabs rejected this ‘two state solution’ and refused to set up a provisional government, and the armies of the Arab League attacked immediately after Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. In the armistice agreements, which followed that war, Jerusalem was divided. West Jerusalem was held by Israel. East Jerusalem, including the Old City and the holy places, was part of the territory annexed by the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, which was then renamed ‘Jordan.’
In 1967 Jordan joined Egypt and Syria in a coalition aimed again at the destruction of Israel, and its army joined the forces massed on Israel’s borders. In the ‘Six-Day War,’ which followed, East Jerusalem was retaken by Israel, and Israel claimed sovereignty over a reunited Jerusalem.
Jerusalem under Israeli rule
Under Article 8 of the Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement of April 1949, free access to the Western Wall and Mount Scopus was guaranteed to the followers of all religions. However, between 1948 and 1967, under the rule of Jordan in East Jerusalem, 54 synagogues were destroyed in the Old City; gravestones from the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used as paving stones, and Jews were expelled from the sector. Immediately after the Israeli reunification of Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the Protection of Holy Places Law on 22 June 1967, guaranteeing the sanctity of all religious sites, including the holy places of Christianity and Islam. This law imposes prison sentences of up to seven years on those who desecrate such places. The 1980 Basic Law on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel reaffirmed the principle of free access to the holy sites of all religions.
Israel permits Christians and Muslims to administer their holy places and institutions. Jordan still administers the Muslim holy sites in the city, and the October 1994 Israel-Jordanian peace treaty agreed to respect “the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.”
The Historical Jewish Capital of the Historic Jewish Land
For 3,000 years Jews have turned towards Jerusalem for spiritual, cultural, and national inspiration. After the destruction of the city, by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, the city has been ruled by a succession of conquerors – Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Arabian, Crusader, Egyptian, Turkish, British and Jordanian. Today Jerusalem is once again the open center of the Jewish people, whereas the Talmudic sages said, “Ten measures of beauty were bestowed upon the world; nine were taken by Jerusalem.”
The significance of Jerusalem to Christians.
Jerusalem, in particular, was the scene on which the most uniquely momentous events of [Christian] history had been enacted. The mystery of the incarnation and redemption had taken place here. The divine act of salvation, in spite of its universal – and according to some early fathers, cosmic – significance, here had its local habitation and real manifestation. The nativity and the events preceding it, Christ’s childhood and manhood, his ministry and preaching, the consummation of this ministry in his passion, resurrection and ascension, the birth of the Church on Pentecost and the beginnings of the first Christian community – all these took place on definite spots in this particular city and land, no matter whether the sites associated with these events by later tradition were historically ‘authentic’ or not.
The significance of Jerusalem to Christians and Moslems
Jerusalem holds the same religious significance for Palestinian Christians and Muslims as it does for Christians and Muslims everywhere. Its name in Arabic, al-Quds (“the Holy”) signifies its central roles for both religions.
Both the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Christianity’s most holy site that commemorates the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to heaven, as well as the Via Dolorosa, the route Christ is believed to have walked to his crucifixion, is located within the walls of the Old City.
Jerusalem is also the administrative seat of three Arab Christian denominations: Greek (sometimes Eastern or Arab) Orthodox, Latin (or Roman) Catholic, and Anglican, as well as for other eastern churches, such as the Coptic (Egyptian) and Armenian churches.
Palestinian Christians attend religious rites in the city and resort to ecclesiastical courts and other institutions that address critical social needs.
For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. During the first ten years of Islam, Muslims faced Jerusalem, not Mecca, while praying. This was in acknowledgment of the continuity between Islam and the earlier monotheistic prophetic traditions, Judaism and Christianity. It was only later that the Prophet Muhammad directed Muslims to face the Ka’aba in Mecca, signifying the growing independence of the new religion.
In Jerusalem, the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, contains both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock, with its beautiful painted tiles and gilded dome, is one of the most distinctive features of the Jerusalem skyline. It was built in 691 A.D. over a rock from which Muhammad was said to have ascended to heaven on a winged horse (al-buraq), returning the same night.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the site where Muhammad is said to have tied his winged horse upon arrival in Jerusalem from Mecca. Muslims from all over Palestine congregated to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays – until restrictions imposed by Israel prevented them from doing so.
Apart from its religious significance, Jerusalem has been an administrative, economic, and cultural hub for the Palestinians.
The importance of Jerusalem in Moslems Perspective.
In the year 620, almost one-and-a-half years before his Hijra (migration) from Makkah to Medina the famous event of Isra and Miraj (Night Journey and Ascension) occurred. One night, in a miraculous way, the Prophet was taken on a momentous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then from there to the heavenly celestial abodes.
The Night Journey was a great miracle that Muslims believe was given to Prophet Mohammad as an honor and as a confirmation of Mekka’s spiritual link with Jerusalem.
Both of these events took place on the same night. The angel Gabriel took the Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem. There it is reported that the Prophet stood at the Sacred Rock, went to the heavens, returned to Jerusalem and met with many Prophets and Messengers who were gathered together for him on that occasion and he led them in prayers.
After these experiences, the Prophet was taken back to Mekka.
During the Miraj, the Prophet is reported to have received from Allah the command of five daily prayers (Salah) that all Muslims must perform. Upon his return to Makkah, the Prophet instituted these prayers. It is significant to note that he made Jerusalem the direction (al-Qiblah), which Muslims must face while doing their prayers. Jerusalem is thus called Ula Al-Qiblatain (the First Qiblah).
The Prophet and the early community of Islam worshiped towards the direction of Jerusalem during their stay in Makkah. After the Hijra (migration), Muslims in Madinah also continued to pray facing Jerusalem for almost seventeen months. Then came Allah’s command to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Makkah.
Muslim commentators of the Quran and historians have explained the meaning and purpose of this change.
A separation had to be made between the people and the pagan worship that they used to perform at the Kaba. Jerusalem served that purpose very well by distancing the people from their pagan and idolatrous associations.
Once monotheism was fully established in the minds and hearts of the believers, and once the Kaba’s position with Abraham and with monotheism was made clear, the way was open to restore the Kaba as the direction of prayers.
Jerusalem in the early history of Islam
Jerusalem came under Islamic rule during the reign of the second Caliph Umar, in the year 638. It was a peaceful conquest. The ruling patriarch of the city, Sophronius, offered the keys of the town to the Caliph himself. Upon entering the city, the Caliph asked about the location of (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) and the blessed Rock from where the Prophet went in Miraj.
The site was a desolate place at that time. Romans had destroyed the so-called Second Temple in the year 70 CE, and no non-Christian or Christian ruler of that city after that ever tried to build any place of worship there.
According to historians, it was a garbage dump, a dunghill for the people of Jerusalem. Umar, upon learning this was the site of the Masjid of Jerusalem and the place from where the Miraj took place, cleaned the place with his hands and put his forehead in prayer on that ground.
The Masjid al-Aqsa was later built in that area.
In 691 CE the Dome of Rock and a more elaborate mosque were constructed. Those were, perhaps, the first most expensive and expansive sacred monuments built in the history of Islam.
Muslims always held Jerusalem in great esteem. The Prophet said, “Journeys should not be taken (with the intention of worship) except to three mosques: the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, my Mosque in Madinah and Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.”
By this Hadith, Muslims always considered it as a religious deed to visit the city of Jerusalem, its mosque and its sacred and blessed precincts. Often pilgrims made it a point to visit Jerusalem on their way to Makkah and Madinah.
Muslim rulers and philanthropists built many hospitals, schools, and religious centers in and around the city. They purchased land in and around the city and dedicated it as a Waqf (endowment) for religious purposes. The whole town is virtually Waqf land that is non-salable and nontransferable.
Many Muslim scholars also migrated and settled in the city. The Al-Aqsa Masjid was a great seat of learning. Thousands of pious people and students included provisions in their wills to be buried in Jerusalem. There are thousands, perhaps millions of Muslims’ graves in the city of Jerusalem.
Muslims also recognized the rights of Christians and Jews who hold the city dear to their hearts and sacred in their faiths.
Under Islamic rule, they were given permission to settle there. When the Caliph Umar made the treaty with the Christian Patriarch Sophronius, it was agreed, at the request of the Christian patriarch, that “No Jews will live with them in Aelia (Jerusalem).”
After the re-conquest of Jerusalem by Salahuddin in the time of the Crusades, Jews were again permitted by Muslims to come back and live in the city. The Crusaders during their 90-year rule (1099 – 1187) had banned both Jews and Muslims from that town.
Amin Maalouf speaks about “murderous or mortal characters. Identities that kill. It is a notion that reduces identity to one single affiliation –encourages people to adopt and attitude that is partial, sectarian, intolerant, domineering, sometimes suicidal, and frequently even changes them into killers or supporters of killers. Their view of the world is biased and distorted.” 
This separation of identities into those who belong to the US, are OURS, and in this case, we sympathize, support, sometimes tyrannizes, …those, and the OTHERS, whom we don’t even try to put ourselves in their place. The only thing that counts is what WE think or see.
This view makes it easier to understand and imagine how people can be driven to the worst of extremities if they feel that the OTHERS represent a threat to their ethnic group or nation.
The feeling that each side believes that he is fighting for his survival, the justice of his cause, protecting his existence, makes it all seem like a legitimate act of self-defense. This affirmation of identity became an “instrument of war” as Maalouf describes it. In which, the transition from one meaning to the other is imperceptible and quite natural, and we often only go with it. From one side we denounce injustice, we defend rights, but the next day we could commit a massacre.
In the case of Israel and Palestine, when the victims of the past became the victimizers of today. In which the terms of THEM and WE continue into WE by definition are the innocent victims, and THEY are necessarily guilty and have always been so.
In our case as well, the Tribal notion of identity is robust and widely accepted, despite the change of ideas and norms that dominated tribal thinking. Which means that ideas that have prevailed throughout history are not those necessarily that ought to prevail in times to come. On many levels, yet, we still have to reconsider our attitudes and habits.
Nowadays, we all have to incorporate into our lives many ingredients that come to us from the most influential of the world’s cultures. But it is vital that we should all be able to see that elements of our culture-individuals who have distinguished themselves, fashion, works of art, everyday objects, music, food, word are also adopted all over the world and formed part of the universal heritage of all humanity.
Identity is in the first place a matter of symbols, even of appearances. What is right of gathering is also true from a social group, a national community, and the global community itself. Wherever you are, you need these signs of identification, these bridges to the other: this is still the most civil way of satisfying the need for identity.
When the inhabitants of a country all feel they belong to different communities-religious, linguistic, ethnic, racial, tribal or whatever- how can this state of affairs be managed? Should all the different allegiances be taken into account?
Identity isn’t given once and for all; it is built up and changes throughout a person’s lifetime.
What determines a person’s affiliation to a particular group is primarily the influence of others: the influence of those about him- hose who try to make him one of them: together with the effect of those on the other side. Who does their best to exclude him?
Each one of us has to make his way while choosing between the paths that are urged upon him and those that are forbidden or strewn with obstacles. He is not himself from the outset, nor does he just grow aware of what he is; he becomes what he is.
It is an unfortunate characteristic of this region that more new religious and political identities have obscured identification with the ancient past that is still part of it. In other cases where ancient history is used, the effect is fragmentary and ill informed rather than constructive.
Identity traps can be useful or destructive, and they are varied and many. Identity construction, even when based on an invented past, can seem to be successful when it manages to control people’s minds for a particular direction and purpose. In this case, the Israelis have turned an imaginary biblical landscape into an identity with the land by appropriating and exploiting Palestine’s resources and environment, as well as aspects of Palestinian heritage.
Some real traces of the past are forgotten or neglected, while invented or false links acquire an obsessive reality all their own. It is a strange thing indeed that, in the construction of identity, the imaginary often has a stronger effect that makes real connections. This applies particularly to the use of ancient history. Those who have a right to that history may be unaware of it; instead of being able to appreciate its depth they live under its weight and are disabled by it. But that past is distant and therefore exploitable by those who have the tools to wield power. (P.111, hidden histories)
“ I don’t see any way of resolving the problem if Israel continues to hold on to the whole of Jerusalem. I am not saying that I am for the repartitioning of Jerusalem. I am not. I think it should remain a united city. But there should be a creative way for Palestinians to see in Jerusalem, of at least Arab or East Jerusalem, as their capital. It has to be.
It means a lot to Palestinians. And, of course, it also means a tremendous amount to the Islamic world. Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian city .it is also a city with a large significance for a billion Muslims.So some arrangement has to be made whereby Israel cannot go on dispossessing Palestinians within Jerusalem. Something should be done, in a creative way so the city, which is a universal city, can express the hopes and traditions of the three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Something likes the Vatican … something without necessarily internationalizing it. But something of that sort, rather than cutting it up again or keeping it unified under Israeli control.”(Said.pg 380.power politics, and culture)
What some scholars as Huntington call as the clash of civilizations, are in fact the fundamental source of conflict, following the collapse of communism. In Huntington’s view, cultures represent the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity and are defined primarily by religion.
In his opinion, the assumption is that religious gatherings such as Islam and Christianity are static, unchanging and all “ believers ” are dogmatic. There is no place for casual Christians or mainly relaxed Muslims in this articulation, which believes the lived experience of many people. His portrayal assumes that the divisions are immutable. This makes it difficult to explain the very evident and very visible uniting of the papacy and political elites of Muslim countries on many occasions. (Revising culture, said 79-81)
One cannot say that the relationship among the three religions is pretentious. However, it is not pure. Jerusalem is perhaps the only city in the world that is considered historically and spiritually significant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.
In the ancient world, just as in traditional societies in our day, people tried to explain their sacred geography by saying that the world had been created by gods. It was not, therefore, a neutral territory: the landscape had something to say to humanity.When they regarded the cosmos, men and women discerned a level of existence which transcended the frailties and limitations that impeded their lives.This represented a fuller more powerful dimension, a reality that was at one and the same time other than they and yet deeply familiar.To express their sense of affinity with the sacred realm, they often personified it, imagining it forth in gods and goddesses with personalities similar to their own.
The goal of the religious quest had always been an experience, not a message.We want tp feel truly alive and to fulfill the potential of our humanity, living in such a way that we are in tunes with the deeper current of existence.
The fact that people from all religions lived together along the history of this city, in a typical social and cultural setup despite the political conflicts that accompanied the city since the beginning of the history that can be traced with Jerusalem.
People from different religions can live together. People from all faiths live around the world with harmonious relationships. It is not a problem for a Muslim to be sitting in a Cafe with a Jew in New York, or studying together and in many occasions building families together.
In the end, the connection between the three religions is based on the faith of a God, which each believer believes in his existence with a full belief, despite the difference in the approach. The divinity to one God is by itself a connecting factor between the three religions and hence the people.
Hence, the political conflict that started with the Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel, with no distinction created a crisis based on belief. And dramatically this battle shifted from a real political conflict to a religious conflict.
Somehow, Jerusalem seems to be the most influential in attracting such differences into a conflict. Since the beginning of the first centuries, and Jerusalem was the attraction for political agendas. Constantine waged his holy war to overcome the Romans, through dedicating Jerusalem as the center of Christianity. And Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, in his pledge to gain power over his weak Islamic empire in the Peninsula, Addressed Jerusalem as the heart of Islam.
The Moslems had established a system that enabled Jews, Christians, and Muslims to live in Jerusalem together for the first time since the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon, monotheists had developed a vision of the city that had seen its sanctity as dependent upon the exclusion of outsiders. Muslims had a whole notion of the sacred. However, the coexistence of the three religions of Abraham, each occupying its district and worshipping at its special shrines, reflected their vision of continuity and harmony of all rightly guided religion, which could only derive from the one God.
Once monotheism makes such exclusive assertions, coexistence becomes severe. Since each faith assumes that it, and it alone, I right, the proximity others making the same claim becomes an inherent challenge that is hard to bear.
As each of the three religions tried to assert a distinct identity and an intrinsic superiority, tension increased during Abbasid period.
Construction has long been ab ideological weapon in, since the time of Hadrian it had been a means of obliterating the tenancy of previous owners.
The Moslems had always felt edgy about Christians magnificent churches ….Islam had burst into Palestine as an own religion, but a new insecurity had made the religious buildings, formerly symbols of transcendence, come to stand for their imperiled identity. The Christians too had almost certainly intended the enlargement of their power and position in the city. They may have been conquered by Islam, but they would not long remain minor dependents.
There is no conclusive evidence that urban life had begun in Jerusalem at the period of 3200 bc. However, revered as the center of the world by millions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims off the beaten track of ancient Canaan.
Palestine represents a singular and intensified case of paradoxes in knowledge and history.
In a land heavily invested with religious associations by three monotheisms, and subject to both symbolic and actual colonization from ancient times to the present, it is not at all easy to differentiate fiction from fact. In very few other places, if any, have been the subject o so many biased, inaccurate, or an incomplete presentations in publications and the media.
High religious and political investments want to keep the old perceptions unchallenged.
For Israel, the credibility of its justifications, the rationale for its existence, and the foundations of its identity are all at stake.
Colonially imposed divisions have fragmented this region, and its people absorbed in self-colonizing identities that shorten their dark history and preclude any useful identification with it.
One of the most common myths is that Palestinians are Arabs, and so are associated with the seventh-century Muslim conquest.
The fact remains that people in villages and towns mostly stayed in place over the millennia, particularly in the small villages of Palestine and hit greater Syria. Continuity is a lasting reality of the region, Palestine included.The region had been a whole for millennia, just as Palestine was a continuous unit, disrupted only in the aftermath of world war 1, with the division that was drawn by colonial powers.
A Palestinian of Christian background more readily sees the teachings of Christ and Christianity as demonizing and colonizing projects as rapacious processes motivated by self-interest and have destructive effects on native people and the land-
Palestine has been expropriated far more than any other place in the world. Everything in and about Palestine has been confiscated-its food and plants, its cultural heritage, its history, its very existence.After the rise of Zionism, knowledge about the region has been manipulating and invented to accommodate and adapt to the Zionist project and its claim system, generating not a progress of knowledge but as a regression, recycling old claims with further distortions and significant fabrications.
 Basem Ra’d, Hidden Histories; Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean, Pluto Press, 2010.
 Amin Maalouf, On Identity, page 26